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Park’s parents are fighting, which is unusual.
Eleanor thinks that Tina is watching her for a reaction on the bus, but it’s easy to ignore Tina because of Park’s public displays of affection. DeNice and Beebi also tell Eleanor that they’ll protect her.
Park’s mom takes him to his driver’s license test, and he passes. The next day, he shows off his license to Eleanor, and he promises to bring her a school picture.
Park gives Eleanor a school picture, but Eleanor doesn’t have any pictures to give him, so Park gets his mom to take a picture of them. That night at home, Eleanor’s mom says that she’s glad that Eleanor has been smart and stayed away from boys, because Eleanor’s mom hasn’t been alone since eighth grade.
Eleanor and her siblings hang out while Richie works late.
Park, Eleanor, and Park’s mom are at Park’s house. Park’s mom suggests that they go out for pizza and a movie, and she fixes Eleanor’s hair.
Eleanor is smitten with Park’s driving skills.
They go downtown, and Park shows Eleanor his favorite places.
Park holds her hand the whole night.
Eventually, they go to the park. Park asks Eleanor to the prom, and she agrees to go the next year.
Eleanor is sure that the prom will never happen, mainly because she has no idea how she would ever get a dress.
Eleanor agrees to go to any balls that Park is invited to. Eleanor tells Park that he’s cute, and Park gets self-conscious about being Asian, since he doesn’t see any cute male Asian role models in popular culture. Eleanor assures him that she thinks he’s cute for being himself.
They start making out in Park’s car, and when Eleanor accidently honks the horn, they go into the backseat.
Eleanor says that Bruce Lee is a hot Asian celebrity. Park takes off her shirt.
After they make out, Eleanor and Park sit together nervously, not wanting to say goodbye. Eleanor feels jumpy but happy about going to second base with Park. Park drops her off at home. Eleanor realizes that someone has gone through the box filled with her special possessions, has crushed all the cassette tapes, and has left her a threatening note. As soon as Eleanor sees the note, she knows that Richie has destroyed her prized possessions, and she also realizes that Richie has been the one writing crude messages on Eleanor’s books all year.
Eleanor tries to consider her options, but comes up blank.
With all of Richie’s lewd messages playing in her head, Eleanor takes Park’s picture, climbs out her window, and starts running away. Tina sees her, says that Richie has been looking for her all night. Tina makes Eleanor stay and drink a beer with her and Steve. Eleanor says that she has to tell Park.
Park is bewildered when Tina, Steve, and Eleanor show up together at his window.
When Eleanor sees Park, she starts to cry. Tina says that they should get back to Steve’s garage.
Park is still in shock, since it seems like worlds are colliding. Tina says that Eleanor’s stepdad is looking for her. Park takes Eleanor into his grandparents’ RV, and Eleanor tells him everything. Park suggests that Richie might just be trying to scare Eleanor, but she says that Richie is serious.
Eleanor is terrified by how Richie leers at her.
Eleanor says that her uncle invited her to Minnesota for the summer, and that she might be able to go there earlier.
Eleanor plans to hitchhike to Minnesota. Park says he’ll drive her to Minnesota.
Once Park’s mom takes the time and effort to dig deeper and look under the surface to who Eleanor really is, she realizes that Eleanor is a good person who makes Park happy. She starts to encourage their relationship actively, rather than attempt to shut it down, as she had done before. Park’s mom sees herself in Eleanor, and she wants to be supportive of their relationship in part because she feels guilty about how she had treated Eleanor in the past. Park’s mom and Park’s dad both have trouble at first moving past traditional societal conventions and surface appearances, but when they take the time to try and understand both Eleanor and Park for who they are, they eventually accept the relationship. The relationship between Eleanor and Park helps Park’s parents become more tolerant and understanding of different identities.
Ironically, just when Eleanor becomes more intimate than ever with Park, her home life becomes far worse than before. At first her home life was unstable, but now it is unsafe. When Eleanor realizes that Richie has been digging through her private possessions, she feels violated. Richie hasn’t physically violated her, but by ruining her things and going through them without her permission, Richie has emotionally violated her territory. In addition to pawing through her personal space without her explicit permission, Eleanor realizes that Richie is the one who has been writing lewd comments all over her school textbooks. She knows that she is no longer safe in her house, and she is determined to leave immediately, because she knows that if she goes back inside, even for a night, she is putting herself at risk of Richie’s wrath, and she doesn’t want to find out what he’s capable of doing.
Richie’s abuse appears in the novel as a direct contrast to the tender relationship between Eleanor and Park. Park and Eleanor respect each other’s boundaries, and they are able to be vulnerable and close with each other precisely because they each treat the other one with dignity and love. Richie, however, exhibits none of these traits. He is domineering and controlling. Part of the reason why Eleanor has the courage to run away is because she knows that she is worth more than that. By taking Park’s picture with her when she leaves, Eleanor symbolically takes strength from her relationship with Park. Park’s picture was also one of the few personal possessions that wasn’t in the box that Richie destroyed. She doesn’t want to touch the things that were in that box, because she feels like Riche has violated them, but the picture of Park is safe in her bag, so she knows that Richie hasn’t seen that. Richie can’t get away with treating her so badly. Park’s respect for her has helped Eleanor understand that she can respect herself as a person and that she can have the confidence to leave an unhealthy situation.
Surprisingly, Tina and Steve end up helping Eleanor, letting her come hide in Steve’s garage so that Richie won’t find her. Eleanor thinks that Tina and Steve hate her and want to see her be humiliated, but it turns out that when there is a real threat, Tina and Steve can get past their differences and give Eleanor the assistance she needs in her moment of crisis. Tina and Steve aren’t necessarily inherently bad people. After all, Park used to hang out with them before Eleanor appeared in his life and he grew apart from them. Tina and Steve haven’t been exposed to people who come from other backgrounds and value systems, and when they’re confronted with diversity, they find it easier to make fun of it and shut it out, rather than embrace others for who they are.
Richie’s abuse and Eleanor’s physical intimacy with Park also give Eleanor the confidence to confide completely in Park. Until Richie proved definitely how abusive he was, she hadn’t yet had the ability to open up and explain the full situation. But the fact that Richie has been making sexual advances at her, combined with her emotional and physical trust in Park, helps Eleanor tell Park the whole story. There might have been some part of Eleanor that wanted to believe that if she just didn’t say anything out loud, then things with Richie might eventually become better. This line of thinking is how Eleanor’s mom approaches the situation. However, now there is too much concrete evidence of Richie’s diabolical nature, and Eleanor can’t let herself ignore it anymore. She remembers that her uncle in Minnesota offered to take her for the summer, and Park immediately volunteers to take her there.
Even though Park and Eleanor both hate the idea of being separated, they also both know instinctively that Eleanor can’t stay in an abusive environment. Eleanor values herself enough to remove herself from a dangerous situation. Even though she knows that leaving will hurt Park and her family tremendously, and even though the last thing she wants to do is to leave Park, she also knows that she has to set an example for her family to show them that they can also escape. She has to save herself so that her family can save themselves. Park loves Eleanor enough to let her go.